Is the end of Predict and Provide in sight?

29 Nov 22

“Decide and Provide” isn’t something new. The document ‘All Change? The future of travel demand and the implications for policy and planning’ was published in May 2018. The ‘All Change’ document provides evidence of how limited the old-school approach is.

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Recently, Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) became one of the first Local Authorities to require consultants to use the “decide and provide” approach when predicting development traffic and parking requirements. As we know, the previous predict and provide approach leads to an endless cycle (if only this meant more bikes) of providing more highway capacity to meet the needs of traffic forecasts that say the number of cars will go up and up forever. Not only does this affect scheme design, losing land to parking is never nice, but it also results in contributions to highway improvement schemes that may never be required, especially for large residential developments that will be built out over 10 years or more.

“Decide and Provide” isn’t something new. The document ‘All Change? The future of travel demand and the implications for policy and planning’ was published in May 2018. The ‘All Change’ document provides evidence of how limited the old-school approach is. Evidence within the report sets out that we made 16% fewer trips in 2018 than in 1996, travelled 10% fewer miles than in 2002 and spent 22 hours less time travelling per annum in 2018 than we did in 2008. These numbers have been impacted even further with flexible working habits emerging as a result of the pandemic. The government is even adjusting growth rates to reflect the reduction of up to 21% of young people (21-29-year-olds) having driving licenses and the large ageing population reducing their private vehicle travel.

This switch to “decide and provide”, however, sees the idea of encouraging active and sustainable travel to come to the forefront. Can we create masterplans from the outset that mean the car isn’t the go to mode of travel? Can we provide the infrastructure that persuades those living and working within our developments to ditch the car and get on the bike?

The simple answer is yes, but of course, there will always be challenges to overcome. Whilst OCC have made one of the first leaps and the London Plan strongly promotes the use of active and sustainable modes, the whole industry needs to go with OCC if this is to become reality. It will always be more difficult to provide this type of solution in rural areas but after all, it shouldn’t fall on the developer to cover the cost of active travel and highway improvements if some authorities do not accept the “decide and provide” approach.

So, is this really the end of predictions? Of course not, we predict that England will lift the trophy on 18th of December!

Matt Bolshaw Senior Planner,Transport
Mitchell Gregory Senior Engineer,Transport